Whitney Houston found dead

 

US police are investigating the circumstances surrounding the death of US pop star Whitney Houston whose body was found in a Beverly Hills hotel room yesterday afternoon.

The world of music was in mourning today after the sudden death of Whitney Houston at the age of 48.

Beverly Hills police Lieutenant Mark Rosen said Houston was pronounced dead yesterday afternoon in her room on the fourth floor of the Beverly Hilton hotel where she was staying ahead of the Grammy Awards tonight.

Early today her body was taken to a morgue in Los Angeles where a post mortem examination will be held later.

“There were no obvious signs of any criminal intent,” Lt Rosen said.

Houston’s publicist, Kristen Foster, said the cause of death was unknown.

Lt Rosen said police received an emergency call from hotel security about Houston at 3.43pm.

Paramedics who were already at the hotel because of a Grammy party were not able to resuscitate her, he said.

Houston’s death came on the eve of music’s biggest night — the Grammy Awards. It’s a showcase where she once reigned, and where she will be remembered tonight in a tribute by Jennifer Hudson, organisers said.

Her long-time mentor Clive Davis went ahead with his annual concert at the same hotel where her body was found. He dedicated the evening to her and asked for a moment of silence as a photo of the singer, hands wide open, looking to the sky, appeared on the screen.

Houston had been at rehearsals for the show on Thursday, coaching singers Brandy and Monica.

Two days ago, she performed at a pre-Grammy party with singer Kelly Price.

Singer Kenny Lattimore hosted the event, and said Houston sang the gospel classic Jesus Loves Me with Price, her voice registering softly, not with the same power it had at its height.

Lattimore said Houston was gregarious and was in a good mood, surrounded by friends and family, including daughter Bobbi Kristina.

“She just seemed like she was having a great night that night,” said Lattimore, who said he was in shock over her death.

Aretha Franklin, her godmother, also said she was stunned.

“I just can’t talk about it now,” Franklin said in a short statement. “It’s so stunning and unbelievable. I couldn’t believe what I was reading coming across the TV screen.”

In a statement, Recording Academy President and CEO Neil Portnow said Houston “was one of the world’s greatest pop singers of all time who leaves behind a robust musical soundtrack spanning the past three decades”.

"She had everything, beauty, a magnificent voice. How sad her gifts could not bring her the same happiness they brought us," Barbra Streisand, said in a statement.

At her peak, Houston was the golden girl of the music industry. From the mid-1980s to the late 1990s, she was one of the world’s best-selling artists.

Her success carried her beyond music to films, where she starred in hits like The Bodyguard and Waiting to Exhale.

She influenced a generation of younger singers, from Christina Aguilera to Mariah Carey, who when she first came out sounded so much like Houston that many thought it was Houston.

But by the end of her career, Houston became a stunning cautionary tale of the toll of drug use. Her album sales plummeted and the hits stopped coming; her once serene image was shattered by a wild demeanour and bizarre public appearances. She confessed to abusing cocaine, marijuana and pills, and her once-pristine voice became raspy and hoarse, unable to hit the high notes as she had during her prime.

“The biggest devil is me. I’m either my best friend or my worst enemy,” Houston told ABC’s Diane Sawyer in an infamous 2002 interview with then-husband Bobby Brown by her side.

It was a tragic fall for a superstar who was one of the top-selling artists in pop music history, with more than 55 million records sold in the United States alone.

She seemed to be born into greatness. In addition to being Franklin’s goddaughter, she was the daughter of gospel singer Cissy Houston and the cousin of 1960s pop diva Dionne Warwick.

Houston first started singing in the church as a child. In her teens, she sang back-up for Chaka Khan, Jermaine Jackson and others, in addition to modelling. It was around that time that music mogul Clive Davis first heard Houston perform.

“The time that I first saw her singing in her mother’s act in a club ... it was such a stunning impact,” Davis told Good Morning America.

“To hear this young girl breathe such fire into this song. I mean, it really sent the proverbial tingles up my spine,” he added.

Houston made her album debut in 1985 with Whitney Houston, which sold millions and spawned hit after hit. Saving All My Love for You brought her her first Grammy, for best female pop vocal. How Will I Know, You Give Good Love and The Greatest Love of All also became hit singles.

Another multiplatinum album, Whitney, came out in 1987 and included hits like Where Do Broken Hearts Go and I Wanna Dance With Somebody.

Her decision not to follow the more soulful inflections of singers like Franklin drew criticism by some who saw her as playing down her black roots to go pop and reach white audiences. The criticism would become a constant refrain through much of her career. She was even booed during the “Soul Train Awards” in 1989.

“Sometimes it gets down to that, you know?” she told Katie Couric in 1996. “You’re not black enough for them. I don’t know. You’re not R&B enough. You’re very pop. The white audience has taken you away from them.”

Some saw her 1992 marriage to former New Edition member and soul crooner Bobby Brown as an attempt to refute those critics. It seemed to be an odd union; she was seen as pop’s pure princess while he had a bad-boy image and already had children of his own. The couple had one daughter, Bobbi Kristina, born in 1993.

Over the years, he would be arrested several times, on charges ranging from driving under the influence to failure to pay child support.

But Houston said their true personalities were not as far apart as people may have believed.

“When you love, you love. I mean, do you stop loving somebody because you have different images? You know, Bobby and I basically come from the same place,” she told Rolling Stone in 1993.

“You see somebody, and you deal with their image, that’s their image. It’s part of them, it’s not the whole picture. I am not always in a sequined gown. I am nobody’s angel. I can get down and dirty. I can get raunchy.”

Brown was getting ready to perform at a New Edition reunion tour in Southaven, Mississippi, as news spread about Houston’s death. The group went ahead with its performance, though Brown appeared overcome with emotion when his voice cracked at the beginning of a ballad and he left the stage.

Before his departure, he told the sell-out crowd: “First of all, I want to tell you that I love you all. Second, I would like to say, I love you Whitney. The hardest thing for me to do is to come on this stage.”

Brown said he decided to perform because fans had shown their loyalty to the group for more than 25 years. During an intermission, one of Houston’s early hits, You Give Good Love, played over the speakers. Fans stood up and began singing along.

It would take several years for the public to see the “down and dirty” side of Houston. Her moving 1991 rendition of The Star Spangled Banner at the Super Bowl, amid the first Gulf War, set a new standard and once again reaffirmed her as America’s sweetheart.

In 1992, she became a star in the acting world with The Bodyguard. Despite mixed reviews, the story of a singer (Houston) guarded by a former Secret Service agent (Kevin Costner) was an international success.

It also gave her perhaps her most memorable hit: a searing, stunning rendition of Dolly Parton’s I Will Always Love You, which sat atop the charts for weeks. It was Grammy’s record of the year and best female pop vocal, and the Bodyguard soundtrack was named album of the year.

She returned to the big screen in 1995-96 with Waiting to Exhale and The Preacher’s Wife. Both spawned soundtrack albums, and another hit studio album,

My Love Is Your Love, in 1998, brought her a Grammy for best female R&B vocal for the cut It’s Not Right But It’s Okay.

But during these career and personal highs, Houston was using drugs. In an interview with Oprah Winfrey in 2009, she said by the time The Preacher’s Wife was released, “(doing drugs) was an everyday thing. ... I would do my work, but after I did my work, for a whole year or two, it was every day. ... I wasn’t happy by that point in time. I was losing myself.”

In the interview, Houston blamed her rocky marriage to Brown, which included a charge of domestic abuse against Brown in 1993. They divorced in 2007.

Houston would go to rehab twice before she would declare herself drug-free to Winfrey in 2009. But in the interim, there were missed concert dates, a stop at an airport due to drugs, and public meltdowns.

She was so startlingly thin during a 2001 Michael Jackson tribute concert that rumours spread she had died the next day. Her crude behavior and jittery appearance on Brown’s reality show, "Being Bobby Brown,” was an example of her sad decline.

Her Sawyer interview, where she declared “crack is whack,” was often parodied. She dropped out of the spotlight for a few years.

Houston staged what seemed to be a successful comeback with the 2009 album I Look To You. The album debuted on the top of the charts, and would eventually go platinum.

Things soon fell apart. A concert to promote the album on Good Morning America went awry as Houston’s voice sounded ragged and off-key. She blamed an interview with Winfrey for straining her voice.

A world tour launched overseas, however, only confirmed suspicions that Houston had lost her treasured gift, as she failed to hit notes and left many fans unimpressed; some walked out. Cancelled concert dates raised speculation that she may have been abusing drugs, but she denied those claims and said she was in great shape, blaming illness for cancellations.

Houston was to make her return to film in the remake of the classic movie Sparkle. Filming on the movie, which stars former “American Idol” winner Jordin Sparks, was recently completed.

ey Houston's career saw her win six Grammys, 30 Billboard awards and 22 American Music Awards. She released seven studio albums and sold some 170 million CDs, singles and videos.

</p> <p>Organisers of tonight's Grammy Awards said Houston will be remembered at the awards</p> <p>tonight in a tribute by Jennifer Hudson.</p> <p><strong>AP</strong></p>